Thinking of doubling down on your ecommerce efforts in 2022 by spending up big on programs and projects to help you keep up with the competition? You’re wise to do so, given Australians’ collective love affair with online shopping shows no sign of abating.

In fact, the reverse. Collectively, we spent $52.24 billion on online retail in the 12 months to October 2021, according to the NAB Online Retail Sales Index: October 2021. That’s around 14.3 per cent of the total retail trade estimate. Just two years earlier, that figure was $29.84 billion but, since then, with Covid forcing millions of shoppers to swap a wander through the mall for scrolling sessions at home, the flight to online has accelerated dramatically.

Amping up the omni-channel experience

Today, retailers are cognisant that a bricks and mortar presence alone no longer cuts the mustard, and that adopting an omni-channel strategy – and fast! – is necessary, to capture and retain the custom of today’s Aussie shopper.

Hence, we’re likely to see a rush to invest in tools and technologies that enable retailers to create unique, high quality experiences for their customers, at each and every touchpoint.

Order management solutions that allow them to run their online operations efficiently at scale will also prove popular, as brands seek to remove every scrap of friction from the process of selling and sending stock to customers.

Headless commerce – ecommerce architecture which separates front end and back end functionality within an application, thereby making the latter easier to upgrade and optimise – will also be a key focus, for retailers that have not yet adopted the model.

Supercharging sales via a marketplace

Meanwhile, online marketplace technology looks set to remain the new black. Around the country, retailers across every segment and category, from babywear to barbecues, are looking to expand their ranges without significant upfront investment, by setting up sites that market the wares of third party vendors alongside their own.

The benefits of doing so are compelling – an increase in turnover of 30 to 50 per cent is not uncommon – while the costs are relatively modest and the risks low.

With big names, including Woolworths, SurfStitch and Barbeques Galore, already reaping the rewards of timely investment in online marketplace technology, catching up and competing will be a focus for their less nimble rivals.

Tackling the talent challenge

But, for many retailers, the biggest challenge will not be transforming or optimising their ecommerce model but, rather, securing the skilled personnel they need to do so.

The fact is, Australia is in the grips of a crippling ICT skills shortage and it’s one that’s unlikely to abate this year, or next.  But they’re all in this together – from the Big Four consultancies down to boutique players that specialise in small projects for small brands.  Everyone is scouring the market for individuals with the skillset and experience to drive transformational ecommerce initiatives.

Building capacity inhouse

As I see it, there’s no quick fix for this talent dearth. The ICT industry and your sector must work together, to develop a new generation of high tech professionals who can create, implement and manage the omni-channel ecommerce infrastructure local retailers need to survive and thrive.

Businesses and brands that want to ensure they’re not scratching for bodies would do well to encourage young talent to create rewarding careers for themselves. 

Fail to act and you may well find yourself hamstrung in your efforts to invest in transformational ecommerce projects that enable you to deliver the customer service and experiences today’s shoppers expect and demand.

Pursuing profitability and growth in 2022 and beyond

Australian retailers have weathered volatile and uncertain times since the onset of the Covid pandemic two years ago. In the digitally driven shopping era the virus has ushered in, a strong omni-channel presence may mean the difference between sinking and swimming. Against that backdrop, securing the help you need to put your ecommerce plans into action has never been more important.

Kellie Egan is chief people officer at Marketplacer.